In its early years I guess you could say the Genesis floundered about in the marketplace as it struggled to find its identity. Sega’s expertise has always been its arcade heritage and the arcade ports it created for the Genesis certainly helped its position. But for home consoles most gamers look for an experience deeper than the arcade provides and Castle of Illusion helped to fill that platform void years before a certain Hedgehog would rocket Sega into the stratosphere.
Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse was released in 1990 worldwide to vast critical acclaim. Developed by Sega of Japan, you star as Mickey Mouse on a quest to save Minnie Mouse from the witch Mizrabel. It’s a platformer you don’t need much more than that. A platformer in the same mold as the Mario and Sonic games, Castle of Illusion astonished with excellent graphics and solid action, becoming one of the best licensed Disney games of the time. For a short period it was also a sort of flagship for the console until Sonic the Hedgehog was unleashed on the public.
A platformer, Mickey travels through 5 levels of Mizrabel’s castle to collect 7 gems needed to concoct a bridge to her throne room. Armed only with a handy butt bounce and a selection of apples or marbles, you’ll face a number of challenges throughout the levels, ranging from the generic enemies that dot the levels to some tricky platform hopping. Each room of the castle transports you to a different world with their own unique challenges. Although the game is on the easy side the variety will keep you glued to the controller along with the spectacular graphics.
At the time of its release Castle of Illusion was definitely one of the most visually stunning games released. Let’s start with Mickey. Long before Sonic showed off his “attitude” by impatiently tapping his foot if you dawdled too long Mickey dropped jaws with his animations. Not only did he look ripped from the silver screen thanks to the Genesis he animated like one too. Mickey has a range of facial expressions and animations for any given situation much like Sonic, but that bastard gets all the recognition. Thanks to the variety of worlds you visit you’ll explore a range of set pieces, from the haunted woods of the Enchanted Forest to the childlike wonder of Toyland, each more visually impressive than the last. The limited color palette of the Genesis isn’t even a concern as the game is almost as vibrant as the Magical Quest series of games on the SNES.
It is a bit easy but the superb gameplay more than makes up for it. Even if you’re not a Disney fan Castle of Illusion has something to offer. This was a much needed shot in the arm for the console’s library at a time where Sega’s arcade ports dominated and was a welcome breath of fresh air. That it still holds up graphically over 20 years later is testament to the creator’s skill and care.
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